Anika Noni Rose
Born in Bloomfield, CT on Sept. 6, 1972, Rose received her first taste of acting while performing in a high school production of "Fame." Bit hard by the bug, Rose promptly abandoned her childhood ambition of becoming a veterinarian and set a course toward becoming an actress. She earned a degree in theater from Florida A&M University, and went on to receive her M.F.A. from the prestigious American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco in 1998. Rose relocated to the theater mecca of New York, nabbing her first break later that year as a late addition to the Broadway production of "Footloose."Her Obie Award-winning performance in 2001's "Eli's Comin'" made her a darling with the critics, but unfortunately, critical accolades did not equate to financial stability. Following a musical run in "Me and Mrs. Jones" with '70s singer Lou Rawls in Philadelphia, the up-and-coming-actress was down to her last $25 when she had a timely stroke of good luck - a small role in 2003's embarrassing musical misfire, "From Justin to Kelly." A vehicle built to capitalize on the popularity of "American Idol" (Fox, 2002- ) season one finalists Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini, the film died hard at the box office, but managed to buy Rose a stay of execution until she could find her next job.Luckily, that next job was not long in coming. In 2004, Rose landed a breakthrough role as Emmie Thibodeaux in playwright Tony Kushner's critically acclaimed social study "Caroline, or Change." Set in 1960s Louisiana at the height of the American Civil Rights movement, "Caroline, or Change" gave Rose her juiciest role to date as the impetuous daughter of a black maid, the show's formidable title character (Tonya Pinkins). Rose's portrayal of the yearning Emmie won the young actress a Theater World Award and Broadway's top honor - the Tony Award - for that year's Best Featured Actress in a Musical.Rose was back on Hollywood's radar thanks to her Tony win, and director Bill Condon wisely cast her as the third Dreamette, Lorrell Robinson, in the long-awaited screen adaptation of "Dreamgirls" (2006), based on the 1981 award-winning Broadway musical. Taking on the role originally created by Loretta Devine on Broadway, the role of Lorrell was arguably the most difficult, requiring an actress who could stand out yet not overshadow her co-stars. A less glamorous character than Beyoncé Knowles's Deena and less showy than Jennifer Hudson's scorned Effie White, Lorrell might have easily gotten lost in the shuffle as simply the film's third banana, were it not for Rose's ability to hold her own and nail the comic material that the part required.Rose was nominated for an Image Award for her role in the USA Network miniseries "The Starter Wife" (NBC, 2007), and she found further small screen success when she was cast as assistant detective Grace Makutsi opposite Jill Scott as Precious Ramotswe in "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" (HBO, 2008-09). The BBC production was based on Alexander McCall Smith's best-selling series of mystery novels about a team of women investigators set in Botswana. Yet another unique HBO series, it performed well following its U.S. premiere, ending up with a nomination for Outstanding New Show of the Year by the TV Critics Association Awards, though in the end the cable network canceled the series with little explanation. A certifiable success on both the big and small screens, Rose went on to make her mark on animation history with the Walt Disney feature film, "The Princess and the Frog" (2009), voicing the lead character Princess Tiana, Disney's first African-American princess in a retelling of the classic fairy tale set in New Orleans. After a supporting role opposite Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg and Phylicia Rashad in Tyler Perry's adaptation of "For Colored Girls" (2010), Rose delivered a memorable guest starring performance on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ), before landing an episode of "Private Practice" (ABC, 2007-13).